Mediterranean Diet 101

Mediterranean Diet 101

17 Minutes
16 Citations


In a world plagued by metabolic diseases, it's time for a change. Say goodbye to fad diets and embrace a lifelong way of eating that nurtures your body and overall health. The Mediterranean diet, hailed by experts and celebrated for centuries, is the ultimate anti-inflammatory diet. This blog outlines everything you need to know about this diet and is fueled by extensive scientific evidence. Delve into the wealth of information on the Mediterranean diet, understanding its principles and the remarkable benefits it offers.

The Mediterranean diet in a nutshell.

Chapter Index

The Mediterranean Diet as a Solution




Before we start consider this:

The data are alarming: Metabolic diseases touch the lives of many around the world. Consider conditions such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, heart attacks, and diabetes; don’t we all know at least one person who has had one of these? Medical reports confirm this, with about half a billion people suffering with such diseases globally2,3,4,5. Perhaps even more compelling is the fact that 1 in 3 people develop something called metabolic syndrome at some point in their lives10,15. This is the precondition to metabolic disease and it is all related to the quality of the food we eat, as most things in life are.

The problem is that most of the food we eat is processed, easily-digestible, filled with sugar, bad fats and chemicals — junk food. All these things cause metabolic inflammation in our body. This is just a fancy term that describes having a broken, or on its way to be broken, metabolism. If your metabolism is broken, your body cannot process the nutrients you provide to it correctly, and that’s a very bad thing, resulting in physical and mental illness.

Fad vs Real dieting.

Easily enough this is a solvable problem. If a bad diet causes disease, then all we have to do is switch to a good diet. Not a fad diet that lasts for a few weeks/months and is supposed to help you lose weight, only to have it regained a few weeks later.

A diet you can stick to for life; one that is not really a “diet” in the modern, weight-loss sense of the word. An ancient, nourishing diet that passed both the tests of time, and modern science. One that nurtures your body and keeps inflammation and metabolic diseases at bay.

A Mediterranean diet.

Praise for the Mediterranean diet

"The Mediterranean diet is a delicious way to eat healthily, and it's easy to follow for the long term."  

 - Dr. Michael Greger, physician and bestselling author  

"The Mediterranean diet has been shown to improve heart health, cognitive function, and overall well-being. It's a testament to the power of whole, plant-based foods."  

 - Dr. Neal Barnard, physician and nutrition researcher  

"The Mediterranean diet is not a fad, but a way of life that has been enjoyed for centuries. It's a celebration of fresh, flavorful ingredients that nourish both the body and the soul."    

 - Chef Jose Andres, award-winning restaurateur and humanitarian  

"The Mediterranean diet is a perfect example of how delicious, satisfying food can also be incredibly healthy. It's a simple, enjoyable way to eat well and feel good."   

- Dr. David Katz, physician and nutrition expert  

"The Mediterranean diet is not about deprivation or restriction, but about abundance and pleasure. It's a way of eating that makes you feel good, both physically and mentally."   

- Chef Yotam Ottolenghi, bestselling cookbook author and restaurateur.  

"The Mediterranean diet is a perfect example of how food can be medicine. It's a delicious way to nourish your body and prevent disease."  

 - Dr. Dean Ornish, physician and health advocate

The Mediterranean Diet: A brief introduction


The Mediterranean diet has a long and rich history that dates back to ancient times. Historically, it characterised the traditional way of eating in countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea, with Greece and Crete, in specific, being at the forefront (the lands of the Olive tree). It also characterised the philosophy of living of the Mediterranean people. In fact, the word diet derives from the Greek word “diaita”, which means “way of living”. Food, and enjoyment of food in Mediterranean countries is deeply rooted in culture and inseparable from friendship, companionship, and physical and psychological health.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s scientists started noticing the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet in people in Crete9,16. Since then the Mediterranean diet has gained worldwide recognition and popularity. It has been the subject of many scientific studies, (it is in fact, to date, the most well-studied diet), with overwhelmingly positive findings on all aspects of health8. And, it is especially powerful in fending off the major metabolic diseases we talked about earlier. In fact, many physicians, scientists, and experts in the fields of nutrition and dietetics consider it to be the healthiest diet in the world.

Why? Well, it is a natural, colourful diet rich in healthy fats, vitamins, fibres, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-ageing compounds. What springs to mind when you hear “healthy, natural, unprocessed, nourishing foods”? Those are the foods of the Mediterranean diet. Its foundation is the ancient olive tree with Mediterranean people consuming copious amounts of extra virgin olive oil and olives daily. In addition to olive oil, the Mediterranean diet is based on locally available and seasonal foods, including fish, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and pulses, and nuts and seeds. The diet also includes moderate consumption of poultry, dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt, and red wine, and limited consumption of red meat. It’s no wonder so many health experts, and even global health organisations (including the American Heart Association14, and the World Health Organisation7) recommend it!

The Mediterranean Diet as a Solution for Minimizing Metabolic Inflammation and Achieving Sustainable Health. 

The problem, as mentioned earlier, is that metabolic inflammation is bad. It paves the way towards the metabolic disorders of Alzheimer’s disease, heart attacks and strokes, diabetes and cancer. So we want our diets to minimise it, not actually cause it. Of course, eating natural, non-processed foods is always helpful in this regard, and the Mediterranean diet is filled with such foods, as mentioned earlier, but here we want to be a bit more nuanced in our explanation. 

Part of the reason why the Mediterranean diet has so many health benefits is that, generally, it is a low glycemic load diet. This fancy sentence simply states that the Mediterranean diet will not cause frequent spikes in your blood sugar. These are generally non-harmful if they happen once every now and then, but, if occurring frequently, they can be disastrous as they trigger a chain of hormonal malfunctioning in the body which ultimately leads to metabolic inflammation. Another reason why the Mediterranean diet is a healthy diet is because it is rich in micronutrients (“nature’s medicines”), such as polyphenols, which have potent anti-inflammatory properties. Thus, not only does the Mediterranean diet not cause metabolic inflammation, but it also fights it, and helps the body keep it in check.

Furthermore, and perhaps of equal importance, the Mediterranean diet is a great choice for a diet because, well, as mentioned above, it’s not really a diet. It steers focus away from short torturous diet plans, and towards what’s important: The achievement of physical and psychological health. Weight loss (if necessary), follows naturally once the Mediterranean diet has helped the body get rid of its metabolic inflammation. Also, it’s an enjoyable diet! This means that people who decide to embark on the Mediterranean diet journey, can actually stick to it.

What makes food nutritious?

1. Macronutrients: The Building blocks.

Most of the foods we eat come in the form of what nutritionists call macronutrients. There are three types of macronutrients: Carbohydrates (or carbs, for short), fats, and protein. Carbohydrates are a rich source of glucose, a molecule we use for energy. They come in mainly two forms: Complex, fibrous forms that are more slowly absorbed (e.g. whole grains), and processed forms (e.g. coke) that can cause dangerous spikes in our blood sugar. Fats are also a source of energy and there are many different types of fats, some good, some bad. In general, good fats are an essential component of a healthy diet. Finally, protein: Our bodies don’t normally use the protein we eat for energy (only as a last resort). Protein is used by our cells for other purposes (e.g. for building other molecules necessary for the cells’ day-to-day functioning). OK, that was our macronutrients-in-60-seconds course, now let’s move on to micronutrients.

2. Micronutrients: The natural medicines.

Micronutrients are called “micro” because the body only needs small amounts of these nutrients (relative to macronutrients). They are nonetheless essential for health - think of them as “natural medicines” which help the body function properly and fight off disease. Two popular types of micronutrients are vitamins and minerals, which we’ve all heard of before. Another class of micronutrients is that of polyphenols. These compounds are gaining the attention of the scientific community for their multiple health benefits. 

Polyphenols are a type of chemical compound naturally occurring in a broad variety of fruits and plant-based foods and beverages. They are a large group of phytochemicals, classified into, broadly speaking, two different families based on their chemical structures6. Examples of polyphenols include oleuropein, oleocanthal, ligstroside aglycon, tyrosol, oleacein, hydroxytyrosol, which are found in certain high phenolic extra virgin olive oils, and resveratrol which is found in grapes, and wine. 

The health benefits of polyphenols are wide-ranging. Firstly, their antioxidant effect plays a key role in preventing chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer9. Polyphenols also promote heart health by reducing blood pressure, improving blood vessel function, and inhibiting the formation of blood clots. They have been associated with improved brain health too, as they can reduce inflammation and improve brain function, slowing cognitive decline12. Additionally, research suggests polyphenols can aid in managing weight and reducing obesity risk, due to their potential impact on metabolic processes, including fat metabolism13. Lastly, these compounds have demonstrated antimicrobial activities, contributing to gut health by influencing the balance of gut microbiota11. Thus, incorporating a diet rich in polyphenols can be an important part of a holistic approach to maintain overall health. 

Our extra virgin olive oil is an exceptionally rich source of polyphenols, and the Mediterranean diet in general is rich in polyphenols and other healthy micronutrients.


Foods of the Mediterranean Diet:

1. Vegetables

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive in, starting with vegetables. Vegetables, dressed with extra virgin olive oil, form the basis of the Mediterranean diet, and are to be eaten on a daily basis. The combination is a powerful punch of slow-absorbed, fibrous carbohydrates, lots of vitamins, and thousands of polyphenols.

Common vegetables of the Mediterranean diet:

Artichokes, asparagus, aubergine, beetroot, bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, celeriac, chicory, courgettes, cucumbers, fennel, greens, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, okra, onions, potatoes, pumpkin, purslane, radishes, shallots, spinach, sweet potatoes, and turnips.

2. Fruits

Similarly, fruits are consumed frequently, and are rich in vitamins (especially Vitamin C), and fibres. Their skins also contain healthy polyphenols giving them their colourful appearance. 

Common fruits of the Mediterranean diet: 

Apples, apricots, avocados, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, clementines, dates, figs, grapefruits, grapes, lemons, melons, nectarines, olives, oranges, peaches, pears, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, tangerines, and tomatoes (yes, the tomato is technically a fruit). 

3. Whole Grain

Whole grains are rich sources of energy, and much healthier than their processed counterparts due to their fibre content which slows down their absorption.

Common whole grains of the Mediterranean diet:

Barley, buckwheat, bulgur, farro, millet, oats, polenta, rice, rye, spelt, and wheat.

4. Legumes and Pulses


Legumes and pulses are great sources of protein, and fibrous carbohydrate; they are also packed with vitamins and minerals. They are to be consumed several times a week as part of a proper Mediterranean diet.

Common legumes and pulses of the Mediterranean diet:

Cannellini beans, chickpeas, fava beans, gigantes beans, green beans, kidney beans, lentils, mangetout, peas, and split peas.

5. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are rich sources of healthy fats, and full of vitamins (especially B and E), and minerals such as calcium, zinc, and iron. 

Common nuts and seeds of the Mediterranean diet:

Almonds, cashews, flax seeds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and walnuts.

6. Dairy


Dairy are abundant sources of calcium, and research has shown that moderate consumption has been linked to diverse and healthy gut microbiome1. The term “gut microbiome” characterises all the bacteria that live in our guts. Scientists have shown that having the “right” gut bacteria is, perhaps surprisingly, very important for having good health. And, eating the right foods ensures that the right bacteria survive in our guts and keep us healthy. Extra points for Greek yoghurt!

Common dairy products of the Mediterranean diet:

Feta, halloumi, manchego, kefir, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pecorino, ricotta, and yogurt.

7. Sea food

Mediterraneans eat fish and other seafood regularly; perhaps two to three times per week. Seafood is a great source of lean protein, and, importantly, is packed in healthy omega-3 fats. 

Common seafood of the Mediterranean diet: 

Anchovies, cod, clams, cockles, crab, eel, flounder, lobster, mackerel, mussels, octopus, oysters, prawns, salmon, sardines, sea bass, sea bream, shrimp, squid, swordfish, trout, tuna, and whitebait.

8. Meat

The Mediterranean diet does include meat, although consumed less often than in other diets; the meat portions are generally smaller too. It also includes eggs, which are rich in Vitamin D. In general, poultry meat is consumed more often than red meat, which was traditionally reserved for special celebrations. When it comes to eating meat, the most important questions to ask are what the animal ate, and how it was raised. Free ranging, organically fed animals are the choice to go for such that the meat is free of antibiotics, hormones and preservatives, and is more nutritious and tasty too. 

Meats of the Mediterranean diet: 

Chicken, wild game birds (e.g partridge), and lamb, goat and pork (reserved for feast days).

9. Herbs and Spices



In addition, no Mediterranean dish would be complete without the classic Mediterranean herbs and spices. Full of health-promoting bioactive compounds, they add both nutritional value and great taste to the traditional Mediterranean meal.

Common herbs and spices of the Mediterranean diet:

Basil, bay leaf, chilies, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, fennel, garlic, ginger, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, star anise, sumac, tarragon, thyme, and turmeric.

10. Drinks

And lastly, let’s not forget the wine. But before that, water, of course, is the most commonly consumed beverage in the Mediterranean diet, sometimes flavoured with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice. And now the wine: red in specific (but also white sometimes), to accompany the tasty meals, rich in resveratrol, a polyphenol thought to have anti-ageing effects.


That’s it, the Mediterranean diet in a nutshell. Now picture this: You are sitting down to a meal of grilled fish, roasted vegetables, and a glass of red wine, surrounded by the people you love. You feel satisfied, energized, and nourished, without the guilt or discomfort that often comes with other diets. You're not counting calories or obsessing over macronutrients; you're simply enjoying the abundance of delicious, nutritious food that the Mediterranean diet has to offer, and reaping the health benefits whilst doing it.




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